The News-Times

Biden signs bill to keep government running


WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Friday signed into law the stopgap spending bill that will keep the federal government running through Feb. 18, after congressio­nal leaders defused a partisan standoff over federal vaccine mandates.

The White House released a statement noting the bill signing and thanking congressio­nal leaders for their work. Earlier in the day, Biden said it was worth praising bipartisan­ship, but “funding the government isn’t a great achievemen­t, it’s the bare minimum of what needs to get done.”

Both chambers of Congress passed the legislatio­n Thursday avoiding a short-term shutdown of the government into the weekend. The bill keeps the government running for 11 more weeks, generally at current spending levels, while adding $7 billion to aid Afghanista­n evacuees.

“I am glad that in the end, cooler heads prevailed. The government will stay open and I thank the members of this chamber for walking us back from the brink of an avoidable, needless and costly shutdown,“said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

The Senate approved the measure by a vote of 69-28. Nineteen Republican senators joined with Democrats in voting for the measure.

The Democratic-led House passed the measure by a 221-212 vote. The Republican leadership urged members to vote no; the lone GOP vote for the bill came from Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger.

Lawmakers bemoaned the short-term fix and blamed the opposing party for the lack of progress on this year’s spending bills. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, chair of the House Appropriat­ions Committee, said the measure would, however, allow for negotiatio­ns on a package covering the full budget year through September.

Some Republican­s opposed to Biden’s vaccine rules wanted Congress to take a hard stand against the mandated shots for workers at larger businesses, even if that meant shutting down federal offices over the weekend by refusing to expedite a final vote on the spending bill.

It was just the latest instance of the brinkmansh­ip around government funding that has triggered several costly shutdowns and partial closures over the past two decades. The longest shutdown in history happened under President Donald Trump — 35 days stretching into January 2019, when Democrats refused to approve money for his U.S-Mexico border wall. Both parties agree the stoppages are irresponsi­ble, yet few deadlines pass without a late scramble to avoid them.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said Democrats knew last month that several Republican­s would use all means at their disposal to oppose legislatio­n that funds or allows the enforcemen­t of the employer vaccine mandate. He blamed Schumer for not negotiatin­g and for ignoring their position.

Lee and Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., authored an amendment that prohibited federal dollars from being spent to implement and enforce a series of vaccine mandates put in place by the Biden administra­tion. The amendment went down to defeat with 48 yes votes and 50 no votes.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., countered that the federal government should be using every tool to keep Americans safe and that is why the Biden administra­tion has taken steps to urge employers to make sure their workers are fully vaccinated or test negative before they come to the workplace.

“No one wants to go to work and be worried they might come home to their family with a deadly virus,“Murray said.

The White House sees the vaccinatio­ns as the quickest way to end a pandemic that has killed more than 780,000 people in the United States and is still evolving, as seen Wednesday with the country’s first detected case of a troubling new variant.

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